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Sense of Touch and Physical Contact: What Role Do They Play In Dementia Care?

Woman laughing and  shoulder hugging a laughing older woman
Source: Getty Images

Dementia patients have different needs from the average senior. Along with dementia comes confusion, disorientation and agitation. Dementia patients struggle with debilitating cognitive function and therefore, they often find themselves in situations that are overwhelming and confusing. Consequently, they need to be treated with more kindness and gentleness than the average patient. To show kindness, as a caregiver, you can incorporate more physical touch in your care.

Many seniors suffer from touch deprivation and men are more prone to touch deprivation than women because of the social intolerance for same-sex intimacy. Touch deprivation is common among seniors partly because younger adults are apprehensive about touching older adults, and this does not exclude caregivers.

Hand touching someone's shoulder
Source: Unknown

Touch deprivation might seem minuscule, but as humans we need human touch and physical contact to form and maintain bonds with other people and reality.

Touch deprivation can lead to isolation, anxiety, insecurity and depression. To be touched by another human being conveys warmth, fondness, security, kindness and concern. Who wouldn’t want to feel these things?

As a caregiver, it's easier to get caught up in meeting just the basic and medical needs of your patient or loved one. Those needs are important, but so are touch and physical contact. Research indicates that human contact reduces blood pressure, pain, improves mood and helps to calm a Dementia patient. It's safe to say that by neglecting the need for human contact, as a caregiver, you risk neglecting the medical needs of your patient.

Offering touch seems a small task, but it has great benefits for your patients. Try to provide more physical human contact and see the changes it makes.

What Can I do to Incorporate More Touch into my Care Plan?

As a caregiver, you have many different and simple ways you can incorporate more physical human contact into your care plan. You can provide touch to your patient by:

1. Offering hand lotion massage

2. Combing and brushing hair

3. Giving shoulder hugs

4. High 5s

5. Handshakes

6. Assistance when walking

Caregiver brushing senior patient's hair
Source: Getty Images

As important as physical contact is in dementia care, it is also key to remember to Dementia patients suffer from mood swings, agitation and confusion. They often become overwhelmed, so it’s paramount that you approach them with caution when trying to provide physical contact.

Only offer touch when it’s welcomed. Keep in mind that Dementia patients’ moods change often and quickly. They need and want the touch, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy for them to accept it.

Be tender. Be kind. Be reassuring.

Hiring a professional caregiver? Call Dorson Home Care at (973) 672-7691!

We specialize in dementia care.

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